Friday, November 16, 2007

Nounou

It looks more and more as if we're going to have to find a nanny, after all. We still have no news from the crèche, and I'm starting to admit to myself that I will have to go back to work eventually. In order to continue nursing le Petit exclusively without the headache of pumping my milk at work and dragging it home in the train, I will stay at home until at least the end of March. At that point, he will likely be eating enough solids to only need a single bottle of my milk during the day, or so I'm hoping.

Finding a nanny, or nounou, will be at the very least a serious administrative headache. In France, most nannies are employed directly by parents, and since everything here that has to do with employment is complicated, I'm expecting to be soon trapped under a mountain of paperwork. There are agencies than can help, but they charge a lot for the service.

We'll have to carefully calculate our financial options. I would prefer to hire a nanny just for le Petit, so he can stay at our apartment during the day and get plenty of quality one-on-one attention. That's expensive, however, and naturally the more experienced the nanny, the higher the cost. Part of me wants to spare no expense for the little guy, but part of me wonders at what point the whole cost-benefit analysis breaks down. At some point, my salary and the nounou's just wouldn't be different enough to justify my working outside the home.

I think (I hope) I'm exaggerating. Here in France, we can deduct a nice chunk of the cost of child care from our taxes. I probably should look more closely into a garde partagée, a nounou shared between two families, the classic Parisian child care solution. The drawback is, not only do you have to find a person to take care of your child that you trust, but you have to find another family that you trust and get along with, as well. There are other annoying details, such as since the children will be ferried from one family's house to the other on alternate weeks, you have to buy all of the baby equipment, high chairs, cribs, and the rest, in double. And everyone has to agree to go on vacation at the same time. The headaches accumulate.

The last option is home day care. Assistantes maternelles look after one to three children at their homes, and you drop them off and pick them up just as you would at the crèche. I don't know why, but this is the hardest for me to imagine being comfortable with, although if I found someone who was highly recommended, I could change my mind.

I've started to wonder if a good nounou or assistante maternelle wouldn't be better, after all, than the crèche. Le Petit would have someone devoted to looking after just him, or him and a couple other little ones, in a calm apartment. He'd be taken outside for walks every day. Perhaps he'd be better off than in a noisy day care center, with dozens of children running around, big ones and little ones all vying for the overworked staff's attention.

I'm already grateful that there wasn't any room in the crèche for January, for otherwise I would have had to go back to work before I was ready. My current plan, pending a dreaded discussion with human resources next week, is to negotiate a return to work in September 2008 at the latest, and at the end of March at the earliest. This will give me some time to continue nursing le Petit, to hopefully find someone I truly trust to take care of him, and to watch him grow up a little bit more. But will I ever really be ready?

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